Kieran Foran will captain his country for just the second time, and for the first time in this Rugby League World Cup, when the Kiwis take on Papua New Guinea on Friday night (UK-time).
With Simon Mannering, the Kiwis’ regular skipper, being rested for this match, Foran will assume the duties he held mid-season in Canberra against the Kangaroos, when injury ruled Mannering out.
The Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney has named a strong side to take on the Kumuls – who lost 38-4 to Samoa yesterday – featuring the return of Josh Hoffman, Dean Whare, Manu Vatuvei and Sonny Bill Williams. Kearney was keen to give some combinations in his team a chance to settle, but also to rest a few key players.
“Particularly with the backs and edge forwards – in the sense of Alex Glenn and Sonny Bill Williams – it was a matter of getting consistency of who guys are playing alongside now,” said Kearney. “I think that’s important, keeping in mind what’s ahead for us. That was the idea behind having the likes of Dean Whare and Manu Vatuvei back in there.
“With the forwards, with Jesse Bromwich and Sam Moa not playing last week, it was an opportunity to give them a game. And we’re giving guys like Simon Mannering and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves a rest.”
Another of the Kiwis big forwards, Frank Pritchard, will have a week off to get over a couple of minor knocks from the match against France.
“Frank has a cork above his knee and a bit of a sore ankle. There was a short period of time from the plane trip on Monday to Friday’s match and I thought it would be best to give him a break.”
Kearney has given every player in his 24-man squad, barring Thomas Leuluai who still has a groin complaint, a run in the tournament. With pool play concluding this week, the pressure is mounting to choose his top side.
“Obviously there are some big players – such as Simon, Jared and Frank – not playing this week, but I couldn’t say for certain that this is the side that plays next week with those players I’ve just mentioned included.
“Right across the whole group, the pressure to perform is there because guys like Jason Nightingale, Kevin Locke and Krisnan Inu are waiting for an opportunity. That pressure is there, even more so, in the forwards. I think that’s a real positive for us.”
The Kiwis vs Papua New Guinea match kicks off at 8pm Friday, November 8 (UK-time), at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds. The match will be shown live on SKY Sports in NZ on Saturday morning (9am KO NZ-time).
The full Kiwis team to play Papua New Guinea is:
1 Josh Hoffman
2 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
3 Dean Whare
4 Bryson Goodwin
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 Kieran Foran
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Ben Matulino
9 Issac Luke
10 Jesse Bromwich
11 Alex Glenn
12 Sonny Bill Williams
13 Elijah Taylor
14 Sam Moa
15 Sam Kasiano
16 Frank-Paul Nu’uausala
17 Greg Eastwood
18 Jason Nightingale
19 Thomas Leuluai